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Archive for March 2012

UK helpline service for Muslim youth to expand on national level

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Originally published for Digital Journal on 23/03/2012


A UK-based Muslim charity which provides a free and confidential emotional support service to young Muslims is establishing volunteer teams nationally for the first time in its 10-year history.

The Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) has held open days in the towns and cities of Luton, Bradford, Birmingham and Leicester, and will be holding a Volunteer Training Day in Manchester this week.

Although all helpline enquiries will still be taken in London, the establishment of volunteer teams in different cities means that for the first time in its history MYH will have a ground presence in local communities around the country.

Marketing Manager Nasir Sayed said: “Our volunteers will raise awareness of our helpline – so young Muslims know they are never alone, they will raise awareness of the issues they face – to encourage the local community to tackle these head on and finally they will hold fund-raising events to ensure that Muslim Youth Helpline can continue to support those in need.”

Greater Manchester has one of the highest Muslim populations in the UK. Mr Sayed said that after London and the West Midlands, their third highest region for calls to the helpline comes from the North West.

He added: “This indicates that there are young Muslims in this area who need our support and we hope to do more to ensure that young Muslims in the North West never have to feel like they are alone.”

Muslim Youth Helpline was set up in 2011 by founder, and then university student, Mohammed Sadiq Mamdani, from his bedroom at home, where he then began helping his peers.

Soon after news of the service spread and MYH were training volunteers in active listening skills to help young Muslims in distress.

Mr Sayed said: “We’re so excited to be coming up to Manchester to set up our first ever volunteer team in the area on Sunday. It’s amazing to see people come forward and give up their own time to help others in need and the benefit this will have for the local community will be immense.”

For those in Manchester who are interested in volunteering, the Volunteer Training Day will be at The Muslim Youth Foundation on Turner Street, opposite Piccadilly Gardens, on Sunday 25th March at 12pm.


Written by Iram Ramzan

March 29, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Posted in UK

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Integration this, integration that

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One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings” – Franklin Thomas


Am I the only person who is rather bored, and somewhat irritated, of hearing politicians go on, and on (and on) about integration. This week, Conservative Eric Pickles was the latest to jump on the integration bandwagon (only English speakers aboard!), concentrating on, surprise, surprise, the Muslim community.

He said: “We have always been of the view that if the Muslim community of Britain, British Muslims, are seen as the enemy within, then the forces of extremism win”.

I am often suspicious of people continually bleating on about integration, because most of the time, in fact almost always, it is in reference to the south Asian community (read: Muslim).

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair had the audacity to write an article in the Wall Street Journal about the ‘problem of integration’:

We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim.

What gives the Blair the tenacity to write on ‘knowing’ exactly how Muslim people identify themselves? Studies have shown that, in fact, more Muslims identify themselves as British than the rest of the population (shame they had to couple it with the standard Veiled-Muslim-Woman photo but that’s another issue).

If anything, however, Blair’s foreign policy alienated some Muslims and even radicalised them. TheJuly 7 bombers mentioned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main reasons for why they were so angry and hence committe their atrocities.

But why the Muslim community? Are all these politicians seriously trying to tell us that only Muslims segregate themselves and cannot speak English? As well as being a gross exaggeration and a backward stereotype, this type of behaviour is not limited to Muslims.

Orthodox Jews, Chinese, and Black people will form their own communities and live in clusters. Many people of other ethnic groups do not speak English fluently, or at all, yet no one finds that an issue. That is largely down to the fact that Muslims have come under more scrutiny post September 2001 than any other group.

For some non-Muslims, being (South) Asian is synonymous with being Muslim and vice-versa, and that is primarily because most Muslims in the UK are from the Indian subcontinent, hence when something from the Asian culture is reported on (e.g. cousin marriages) the immediate reaction is that it is a ‘Muslim issue’.


What do they mean when they say integration anyway?




Many a time we have heard it being said, either by politicians or ordinary people, that immigrants and foreigners are welcome so long as they “live as we live; do things the way we do”.

Often people retort, “They should just learn English”. Next time someone says that, ask them how many languages they speak. About 62% of Britons cannot speak a foreign language. But who cares eh, because “everyone speaks English anyway”.  

Personally, I believe that people should interact and mix – how else will we learn from one another?

In my town, for example, the Pakistani community originate from one part, or one province rather, of Pakistan, and consequently all know one another. Sometimes you will even find many families of the same village living together – a home away from home!

Consequently, many immigrants still live as though they are in their country of origin, and are reluctant to let go of the traditions of their forefathers (which can be both good and bad). Asian women and their clothing is always a disputed issue – heaven forbid if she is wearing anything but traditional Pakistani clothes, she has become, gasp, ‘modern’. [I could go on with my list but this blog would be never-ending]

At the same time, is it so bad for people to live in clusters where the entire street or neighbourhood might be of the same ethnic group? What if they are law abiding citizens and are just getting on with their lives like the rest of us, then what? If it is not harming anyone then is there really an issue?

After all, it is quite normal for people to live like this. Just because white families live in one part of the town, and Asian and blacks in their own areas, does that necessarily indicate there are racial tensions between the different ethnic groups? [NB readers: do comment below with your own thoughts and experiences]

There is a genuine need to have adiscussion on this topic but for groups such as the EDL or other far-right groups, it is racism and/or prejudice under the guise of freedom of speech and liberalism.

Politicians can go on about integration and segregation as much as they like but do those people that talk about these issues actually want to mix with people of a different background? How many close friends of David Cameron are Muslim, Arab, or Asian?

The debate about integration, segregation and whatever other ‘tion’ is not going to go away. As I wrote in a previous article, Europe is in the midst of an identity crisis, as is the Muslim community to an extent (one for another article, perhaps?.

What does it mean to be British,or French, or European? It means not being ‘the other’. And who is the other? This is what worries me; each time people think of a new attribute to add to the selective list of what it means to be British, and each time it seems to exclude anyone different – sometimes that includes non-whites and often Muslims.

I wonder who will be the next person to have their two pence say…  

Written by Iram Ramzan

March 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Posted in politics, UK

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President Sarkozy, national identity and the scapegoat of immigration

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Written by Iram Ramzan

March 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

Join me on the Bridge 2012 – solidarity with women on International Women’s Day

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By Sarah O’Malley



Throughout the world hundreds of thousands of women are living with the physical and emotional scars inflicted by war. Join me on the Bridge is a chance for people to stand in solidarity with these women on International Women’s Day (March 8th), and join their fight for peace and equality.

Join me on the Bridge is now in its third year, beginning in 2010 when women from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) met on the bridge that joins their two countries. Each group carried two halves of a banner, and when they met they tied them together to reveal the message: ‘women are building bridges of peace.’ This symbolic and moving event sparked a global movement that last year saw 75,000 people in 70 countries meet on bridges to show their support for these women, and the many others who have suffered because of war and gender inequalities.

We hear all too frequently of the abuses suffered by women in the countries we work with. It was reported recently that a woman in the Kunduz province of Afghanistan was murdered by her mother-in-law and husband for failing to produce a son. In a report by Doctors without Borders, it was revealed that only 1% of pregnantwomen in DRC with HIV are receiving treatment, and one of the reasons given for this is that international donor support is being withdrawn. It is important that the international community supports women in Afghanistan, DRC and other war afflicted countries to ensure their voices are heard and their demands for peace and equality are met.

JMOB: Women in Baghdad, Iraq celebrate IWD Copyright @Cerwan Aziz (AP)


















This year marks the beginning of the second century for International Women’s Day (IWD), and the beginning of a renewed effort to secure equality, security and a voice for women around the world. We would love you to join us at one of our Bridge Events to stand in solidarity with our sisters in war-torn countries, and to celebrate IWD. Our flagship event in London has now been confirmed, and we will be marching across the Millennium Bridge on 8th March. Last year we were joined by over 2,000 people, and this year we hope even more of you will join us.

To find out more about the London event have a look at the website ( and if you can’t make it to London don’t worry – there are events taking place all over the world, details of which can be found on the site. We look forward to seeing you there!

Can’t make it on the day? There are plenty of ways you can support the campaign even if you can’t be at an event in person. You can let people know about Join me on the Bridge via social media, you can sign up to the website and leave a message of peace for us to share with the women we work with, or you can donate and help support the work we do with women in war-torn countries. Informationon all of this and more can be found on the website.


Written by Iram Ramzan

March 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

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